First person vs. Third person Narrative?
I have a question about narrative views. (Sorry if that sentence didn’t make sense). The thing is I find when I’m writing in the third person, my story tends to get a bit wordy. It just seems like all I ever write is “He did this...” or “She did that...” and I think the actual story gets lost as it is tossed around from person to person. I also find it a bit exhausting trying to find new ways to describe everything that each character is doing and thinking.
For this reason, it is much easier for me to write in the first person because I only really have to worry about one character. I can still develop the other characters conflicts and personalities; it will just be through the main characters eyes. My problem with this format is that I think it is really restrictive - both for the writer and for the reader. As the writer, I find it confining and limiting because I can only tell one side of the story. If the reader cannot relate to the main character, then they are less likely to finish the story. (Maybe this is where proper creative writing style and techniques come in handy).
My question is, is there a preferred way to write a novel – in regards to the narrative? (I’m sorry; I don’t really know how to word the question properly). I mean, do most people prefer to read novels written in the first or third person narrative? (I’ve noticed that a lot of young adult novels tend to write in the first person. One the other hand, most literature I have read seems to have been written with the third person narrative.)
- 1 decade agoFavorite Answer
First off and for the record, there have been books written from multiple viewpoints with two or more characters "writing" in first person. All that is done to differentiate between viewpoints is that the viewpoint character's name is written below the chapter's title on the first page of the chapter. And this is in both "young adult" and mature fiction; I am reading a fantasy book written in first-person from the viewpoint of two half-brothers, and it is turning out quite nicely. However, you probably shouldn't have more than two or three characters looking in on the same set of events; the book I read with about seven viewpoint characters had them actually scattered across the globe in a post-apocalyptic world and, starting out in a couple of groups and occasionally splitting or crossing each other's paths.
As for the "what is preferred" question...well, with first person you can allow the reader to get much closer to a single character, taking away some of the distance between author and reader, and I've found the first-person viewpoint can sometimes make it seem more like someone is telling you their life's story...if it'd done well.
First person is also the preferred viewpoint of amateurs, fanfiction writers, authors of self-inserts and author proxy stories, and people who write in "first person smartass". Unless you know you're good, there's a chance you'll be dismissed based on that alone rather than given a chance to rewrite. It can also make borderline-Mary-Sues into Mary-Sues-From-Hell, since there is great temptation to absolutely go nuts with the story and do *what you want* rather than what would make the story better. A bit of distance is healthy, lest characters change from your pets/projects to your friends/children. It is also usually a lot less subtle than third person.
Personally, I've read great books written in both first and third person. The trilogy of "Idlewild", "Edenborn" and "Everfree" is an example of really well-written first-person narrative, with the first book being entirely from one character's viewpoint and the following two being from multiple viewpoints. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is also written in first person and, in addition to being a great read, is considered a work of literary merit. The "Maximum Ride" series, aimed at younger teens, is a best-seller written in first person, but I find it uncomfortably similar to a lot of self-insert fanfictions due to the way the main (and, unfortunately, viewpoint) character is a wisecracking Mary Sue.
On the Third Person side of the fence, we have quite a few good books as well. Nearly every novelization out there, most modern books considered "literature" and most other published books are written in third person. "House of Stairs" is a short novel written in multiple third person viewpoints that proves just as poignant and even haunting as any first-person story could ever be, and "Ender's Game" isn't far behind it in that respect. While first person tells someone's story, third person makes it one person's story that can also be anybody's story, if that makes sense; Harry Potter would not be as loved by those above the age of twelve if we didn't know and accept that his point of view was not the be-all-to-end-all, and it is the third person POV that allows even the relatively young to make that distinction.
Personally I'd reccomend sticking to third person for longer stories since you don't seem very comfortable with writing and are probably going to get carried away if you start writing "I..." (no offence intended). If there's romance involved for the main character, it's also going to get a bit awkward if you write first person and aren't used to it. Neither POV really limits the viewpoints you can have, but what they do affect is the distance between the author and the reader; unless you're sure the reader will absolutely sympathize with your viewpoint character, third person is the more forgiving option.
- 1 decade ago
I think you should take a possible scene from a story idea and write it both in third and first person. This may help if you seem to flow better in one narrative view compared to another. Also, you should consider your characters. If you are writing about children or young adults first person may be better since this age group seems to be more emotional. First person also works best if you have one main character compared to several main characters or your character has a very distinguished or different way of looking at life, i.e. is very cynical, has an interesting sense of humor. If you really want to write in third person but want to focus on one character, you can always write in third as you follow the actions of your main character.
You could always play with the idea of an outside narrator too. Many good stories are written with an outside narrator. This can sometimes be fun and can allow you to reveal things about your characters that would be hidden in both third and first person. A good example of this is 'The Book Thief' in which the book's narrator (set in Germany during WWII) is the grim reaper. It's a very interesting perspective which allows for a great amount of maneuverability.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
It really depends on the type of story you want to write. I read both narratives because the advantages/disadvantages are equal- and also because it's the story that gets my attention rather than who's doing the telling.
Third person makes it easier to switch to a different character's perspective, though it can be less personal. First person makes it easier to get into the psychology of the main character, though you lose out on the insights of other characters. It may also affect which audience that you're trying to target (romantic literature I'd expect would use the first person to create a certain immersion atmosphere).
Personally, I enjoy writing in third person-subjective/limited. It has many of the perks of being similar to first person point of view while still being in third person. Study up on other books or use a thesaurus sparingly if you're having trouble writing that way (i.e. instead of 'he said' you could say 'he grunted' or 'he screamed').Source(s): Reading this might help you out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_mode
- Anonymous1 decade ago
You're right - traditionally it was very difficult to sell a book to a publisher unless it was third person. YA fiction has broken that rule recently, and pulp romance always has, but serious adult fiction is still normally third person.
I recommend you do a bit more research. You know there are several varieties of third person, right? There's absolutely no need to go from person to person all the time. Look up "third person limited" - it may be exactly what you are looking for.
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- Anonymous1 decade ago
I prefer third person. It seems a lot less....constricted. A first person novel (or story, whichever) doesn't allow you to skip around on characters at all (unless you change the first person, and that's more work than it's worth) or reveal the thoughts of others unless the character interprets them, such as "He looked angry."
I don't know. It's the same way about present tense: I hate to write it and I hate to read it. It might just be me or it could be unanimous. But that's my opinion.
If you're trying to think of new ways to say people are doing things, you could try starting sentences with prepositional phrases, present participles, gerunds, etc. Just a thought. :)
- AndreaLv 51 decade ago
I like first person the best. I love reading in first person and i only write in first person. The thing with first person is that like you said the reader tries to see what the other characters are thinking. Well that's the fun of writing in first person, trying to guess other people thoughts. It's just like real life, you just can't go Tom thought that about Janey. Personally I like first person the best, but If i were you i would write in whichever one makes you feel more comfortable. It'll make the writing process a lot easier.
- 1 decade ago
If it's commercial fiction, then go for 1st person, but if you're trying to write a proper book, say, a classic, then 3rd person is best. You could always go for 1st person, then change it to 3rd person during editing, which is what I do, sometimes. But I usually go for 3rd person, because during 1st person, my main characters tend to ramble in the head a lot. And they get annoying... But it's up to you. Which are you better at? But some amazing books are written in 1st person, too. Just don't be too descriptive and too flowery, and D-O-N-'T do purple prose.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Most books I read are in first person, and frankly I like writing and reading in first person more. It gets confusing when they keep saying "she or she" and then you don't know who they're talking about. I almost always write in first person.
Help me with my story too? :)
- KellyLv 44 years ago
It wouldn't definitely be better in either. Pick the one you're more comfortable with writing, and use that.